The Charlevoix County Prosecutor’s Office issued a joint statement, early last week, announcing the dismissal of charges related to a recent plane crash.
Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof, in the Tuesday March 4 release, stated that the charges were dismissed against Damien Leist, an employee of the Charlevoix County News.
Prosecutors had alleged that Leist photographed human remains in a grave site based upon footage that was taken from the scene of a fatal airplane crash on Monday Jan. 6, near Addis Road just outside of Boyne City.
After the case was dismissed, the parties issued a joint statement.
Telgenhof expressed the county’s commitment to freedom of the press.
“The Charlevoix County Sheriff’s (Office) and the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office respect the First Amendment rights of the news media to cover newsworthy events,” Telgenhof stated. “And, any media reports to the contrary are mistaken.”
He further stated, “In this case, the Sheriff’s (Office) cooperated with a number of media outlets that were on the site, and made provisions to enable them to do their job. Unfortunately, Mr. Leist was not at the scene at the time this was done.”
When Leist arrived a few hours later, the crash site was still subject to restricted access as part of the ongoing investigation into the crash.
As a result of a misunderstanding of the directives of law enforcement, Leist gained access to the site and shot video footage of areas that he should not have had access to.
The sheriff’s office, the prosecutor’s office, and Leist have pledged to work together to ensure such misunderstandings do not occur in the future.
“I deeply respect the hard work of our friends in law enforcement, and I appreciate that they need to secure accident scenes as part of their investigation,” stated Leist in the joint statement. “The last thing I wanted to do was disturb the scene or their work.”
He added, “My only objective was to report on this tragic accident, just like my fellow journalists had done earlier that morning. My heart goes out to the families of the men who perished in the crash.”